Vol. 4 Num 237 Sat. January 24, 2004  
Front Page

AL to boycott Kushtia-1 by-elections

The main opposition Awami League (AL) has decided to boycott the February 29 by-elections in Kushtia-1 constituency, fearing the polls might be rigged.

The AL presidium that met yesterday with party chief Sheikh Hasina in the chair also rejected the government move to expand the parliament by adding 150 seats to the existing 300.

"The meeting felt that no elections under the BNP-Jamaat-led coalition government will be free and fair and this was proved in the Netrokona-3 by-polls," AL General Secretary Abdul Jalil told newsmen after the meeting held at the party's Dhanmondi office.

He blamed the ruling BNP for 'patronising' criminals and said, "They have (BNP) nominated for the by-polls a person who is an accused in a murder case and has many criminal records."

Jalil said the party presidium expressed the view that the government move to expand parliament simply aims to divert people's attention from the AL's 15-point charter of demands that has created ripples across the country.

The meeting urged people to prepare for a united movement to realise the 15-point demand, which includes curbing violence and corruption of the ruling alliance loyalists.

The presidium rejected the government explanation for raising parliament seats in proportion to population growth in the country, Jalil said. "It's not logical as many countries, including US, UK and India did not increase the number of legislators in line with population growth," he added.

Jalil expressed his surprise that the government is closing down state-owned mills and factories and retrenching workers to 'reduce public expenditure' but at the same time it is trying to expand the parliament to increase the expenditure for lawmakers.

"The meeting was also critical of the idea of keeping 50 reserved seats for women in the parliament," he said, adding the AL wants for direct election to women's seats.

It protested dismissal of the cases filed with a Satkhira court against 27 leaders and activists of the BNP for the attack on Sheikh Hasina at Kalaroa on August 30, 2002 and decided to take up the issue with High Court, Jalil said.